Anthony Burgess originally sold the movie rights to Mick Jagger for $500 when he needed quick cash. Jagger intended to make it with The Rolling Stones as the droogs, but then re-sold the rights for a much larger amount. Ken Russell was then nominated to direct because his style was considered well-suited for the material. He would have cast Oliver Reed as Alex. Tinto Brass was another possible director. At some point, someone suggested rewriting the droogs to be girls in miniskirts or old-age pensioners. Tim Curry and Jeremy Irons turned down the role of Alex. Stanley Kubrick once said "If Malcolm McDowell hadn't been available I probably wouldn't have made the film." Author Anthony Burgess initially distrusted Kubrick as a director, but was happy with the results. He felt the film later made the book, one of his least favorite books he had written, overshadow his other work.
Korova Milk Bar is named after the Russian word for cow. Moloko (written on the wall) means milk. The bar's sculptures were based on the work of sculptor Allen Jones. Stanley Kubrick had the milk dispensers emptied, washed and refilled every hour, as the milk curdled under the studio lights. A painting on the wall reappears in Kubrick's The Shining.
Alex performing "Singing in the Rain" as he attacks the writer and his wife was not scripted. Stanley Kubrick spent four days experimenting with this scene, finding it too conventional. Eventually he approached Malcolm McDowell and asked him if he could dance. They tried the scene again, this time with McDowell dancing and singing the only song he could remember. Kubrick was so amused that he swiftly bought the rights to "Singing in the Rain" for $10,000.
Stanley Kubrick asked Pink Floyd if he could use their "Atom Heart Mother Suite" in the soundtrack. However, because Kubrick wanted unlimited license to determine what portions or edits of the song he used, the band turned him down. When Alex is in the record store, we can see the soundtrack of Kubrick's own movie 2001: A Space Odyssey on a lower shelf with "Atom Heart Mother" above it (look for the cow in the field). Other records visible in the shop are Tim Buckley's "Lorca" (1970), on the Island shelf when Alex enters the shop. "Atom Heart Mother" is visible on this shelf as well as behind the counter. Also on this shelf is Rare Bird "As Your Mind Flies By". Two records to the left of the "2001" in front of the counter is Crosby Stills Nash & Young's "Deja Vu" (1970). To the right of "2001" is "The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death" by John Fahey. Between The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Atom Heart Mother" on the wall behind the counter is Neil Young's "After The Goldrush" (1970). The first Chicago album "The Chicago Transit Authority" (1969) can also be seen. The blonde girl with the lollipop can be seen looking at a Mungo Jerry album, "In The Summertime" (1970).
The first line of the novel is "What's it going to be then, eh?" and this line is repeated frequently throughout the book. Another recurring phrase is "dressed in the heighth [sic] of [insert adjective here] fashion," which is how Alex describes every single set of clothes that he or anyone else is wearing. The movie omits all but one occurrence of each phrase. Prison Chaplain Godfrey Quigley is introduced with the line "What's it going to be, eh?" In the next scene Alex imagines himself as a first-century executioner "dressed in the height of Roman fashion."
The language spoken by Alex and his droogs is author Anthony Burgess's invention, "Nadsat": a mix of English, Russian and slang. Stanley Kubrick was afraid that they had used too much of it, and that the movie would not be accessible. The original edition of the novel suffered from similar criticisms, and a Nadsat glossary appendix was added to the second and subsequent editions.
Filming the rape scene was so difficult for the actress originally cast in the role. She quit and the part was recast to Adrienne Corri, who was said to have been furious with Stanley Kubrick for the scores of takes he required for this infamous scene, feeling it should have been done swiftly. Malcolm McDowell, however, has stated that Corri was very "game" about the brief but difficult role throughout filming.
This film was shot almost entirely on real locations as opposed to sets and was lit almost entirely with a Lowell Kit, a staple for film students, perhaps as a reaction against the huge apparatus needed for Stanley Kubrick's previous film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
When Malcolm McDowell recorded his voiceover material, it was on a simple Nagra tape recorder operated by Stanley Kubrick himself. Unusually, he did not have to dub a single one of his other lines in the film, owing to the director's use of then-advanced wireless microphones.
The title was translated into Serbo-Croatian as "The Orange From Hell" ("Paklena Naranca" - Croatian, "Paklena Pomorandza" - Serbian). This comes from the term for clockwork bombs - "Paklena Masina" - "Machine from hell". The Italian title was Arancia Meccanica, and the French title was Une orange mecanique. Anthony Burgess felt that these translations were misleading as they suggested a hand grenade, whereas his title meant a natural creature transformed into a machine.
The book's writer, Anthony Burgess, lived for a time in Malaysia during WWII. After returning to London his wife was assaulted by four American GIs during the black-out, inspiring this story. Burgess claimed that "clockwork orange" was a Cockney phrase, but most philologists agree that he made it up. The Malay word for man is "orang", as in "orangutan" (man of the jungle), and a clockwork orang would be a clockwork man. However, a UK slang expression for a gambling device is a "clockwork fruit" or "fruit machine," due to the depictions on its dials. The anthropomorphic look of a "fruit machine" (thus, its name "one-armed bandit" in the USA for its roughly man-sized shape and "arm" giving it a humanoid appearance) may well have given rise to the term "clockwork orange" in Burgess' fertile mind as Alex, through conditioning, is turned into a robotic clockwork man, which a fruit machine resembles. Gambling also is a game of chance, and Alex literally is gambling with his soul. Dr. Brodsky tells Alex to take his chance and be free in a fortnight, as long as a vacation in Blackpool, the most popular slot machine resort in Britain.
Contrary to popular claims, this was never banned in the UK. It originally received an "X" rating in 1971 and was withdrawn from distribution in 1973 by Stanley Kubrick himself. One of Kubrick's reasons for withdrawing the movie in the UK was that, according to his wife Christiane Kubrick, he and his family received several death threats because of the film. In the 1980s and 1990s, British fans who wanted to see this movie would have to order it from video stores in other countries, usually France. In 1993 London's popular Scala Film Club showed this movie without permission. At Kubrick's insistence, Warner Brothers sued and won, causing the Scala to close in near bankruptcy. In 2000, the year after Kubrick's death, the film was released again throughout Great Britain and received an "18" rating.
Before filming the scene where he had to carry Patrick Magee's wheelchair up the stairs, professional bodybuilder David Prowse went up to Stanley Kubrick and asked if he could make sure that (due to the difficulty of the task) he got the scene in as few takes as possible, saying, "You're not exactly known as 'one-take-Kubrick', are you?" The rest of the crew was horrified at such a famous director being talked to like this, but Kubrick just laughed and promised to do his best. The scene was filmed in only three takes, an incredibly small amount for a perfectionist like Kubrick. Even so, Prowse was near exhaustion after the repeated takes of him carrying Frank and his wheelchair down the stairs.
Because of the limited budget, various techniques had to be used such as dolly shots on wheelchairs, sound recorded live on set, the use of natural light and some scenes in handheld cameras. However, at that time the new camera zoom control was first used in the picture.
The futuristic turntable that appeared in the movie is a Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable. 'Stanley Kubrick' found this turntable when visiting neighbouring Borehamwood company J.A. Michell Engineering, who made the spacecraft models for 2001: A Space Odyssey. When shortly after Transcriptors moved to Ireland, J.A. Michell Engineering continued the production of the Hydraulic Reference turntable, as well as other new models. In 2005 Michell Engineering launched the limited-edition 'Odyssey' turntable.
Rated #2 of the 25 most controversial movies of all time by Entertainment Weekly, 16 June 2006. Rated by Premiere as one of "The 25 Most Dangerous Movies". Rated as the #70 Greatest Movie of All Time by the American Film Institute, 2007. Rated #4 out of 10 by the American Film Institute's "Sci-Fi" list, June 2008.
In the music shop scene there is a list of Top Ten music bands up on the wall. One of the bands listed is Heaven 17, which one of the girls mentions to Alex. This name was used by a real band in the 1980s.
In the police station scene when Mr Deltoid (Aubrey Morris) spits in Alex's face, it is actually Steven Berkoff doing the spitting. After several takes, Morris complained to Stanley Kubrick that he had run out of saliva, and Berkoff volunteered his services until Kubrick's cameras captured the perfect 'spit-shot'.
In the scene after Alex talks with the priest about Ludovico therapy, we see the prisoners marching in a circle around the exercise yard, recreating an 1890 painting by Vincent van Gogh, "Prisoners Exercising (after Gustave Doré)".
While recording narration, Malcolm McDowell would often feel the need to stretch his legs. So to satisfy McDowell and quite possibly get better narration from him, Stanley Kubrick and McDowell would play table tennis (a sport featured in Kubrick's own Lolita), and although they played many games, Kubrick never beat a rather skilled McDowell at table tennis. McDowell was later irritated to find that his salary had been docked for the hours spent playing the game. McDowell often kept Kubrick highly amused by his ability to belch on command (as illustrated at various points of the movie). They would play chess as well, and with Kubrick being the excellent chess player he was, McDowell never managed to beat him at Chess, something that was a regular thing with many actors in Kubrick's films. He would regularly beat George C. Scott at Chess while making Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb , and also Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall on The Shining.
Alexander, Peter, and Dimitri (which can be shortened to Dim) were common names of Russian kings and princes of the Empire of the Tsars (1462-1917). George (Gyorgi or Yorgi in Russian) was their patron saint.
Malcolm McDowell's eyes were anesthetized for the torture scenes so that he would film for periods of time without too much discomfort. Nevertheless his corneas got repeatedly scratched by the metal lid locks.
When Alex is being waterboarded, there is a barely perceptible microcut - in which Malcolm McDowell was able to use the oxygen mask that was hidden in the water. The bath was muddied by using Bovril, a beef extract.
Patrick Magee kept asking Malcolm McDowell if Stanley Kubrick was all right with his performance as he felt that he was being far too over the top. Magee said that he "felt like he was taking a dump", so overwrought was his performance. McDowell assured him that this was exactly what Kubrick was after.
Anthony Burgess was raised a strict Roman Catholic and originally wrote his novel as a parable about Christian free will and forgiveness. His take on it was that to be a true Christian, one had to forgive the most horrifying of acts, something Burgess knew only too well, having seen his wife be assaulted and beaten by soldiers during World War II. This attack resulted in a miscarriage and a lifetime of gynecological troubles for his wife.
The two copycat crimes that prompted Stanley Kubrick to have the film withdrawn in the United Kingdom were the rape of a Dutch girl in Lancashire in 1973 at the hands of men singing "Singin' in the Rain" and the beating of a 16 year old boy who had beaten a younger child whilst wearing Alex's uniform of white overalls, a black bowler hat and combat boots.
Most of the early scenes were filmed on the then under construction Thamesmead New Town project in South East London, Stage One. The flat used in the scene was the show home for the first block completed. Viewers will notice the area around the lake and beyond was under construction at the time and had two more years of building ahead. The scenes on Stage One are still present.
Billy Russell was cast as the Librarian (Crystallography expert), but became ill in January 1971 during production. He died in December of the same year. This character was removed from the film, with some of his lines transferred to the Tramp (Paul Farrell).
It is often claimed that Malcolm McDowell nearly drowned when his breathing apparatus failed during filming of the waterboarding scene. This is not true. Daily records indicate that the scene was filmed in repeated takes with no stoppage from equipment failure. McDowell has never reported a near drowning, while he does report many similar close calls in other scenes.
The film was unavailable for public viewing in the UK from 1973 until 2000, the year after Stanley Kubrick's death. British video stores were so inundated with requests for the movie that some took to putting up signs that read: 'No, we do not have A Clockwork Orange.'
The song "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper" by Erika Eigen is heard playing on the radio when Alex returns home after being released. However, the second verse is not the same as that on the soundtrack album.
Fashion designer and publisher of fetish magazine AtomAge John Sutcliffe, with artist Allen Jones, designed some explicit waitresses' uniforms for the film which were ultimately unused. The sexualised Korova Milkbar sculptures were inspired - but not created - by Jones, who had been asked by Stanley Kubrick to contribute to the film. Jones refused as there would only be a credit, not a fee, for this work.
According to author Anthony Burgess, the title of the book (and the movie) came from East London slang, deriving from the phrase, "as queer as a clockwork orange". No independent references are known, however, and it is thought that Burgess invented the phrase himself.
The film prominently features a sculpture by Dutch artist Herman Makkink (the phallic-shaped "Rocking Machine") and nine paintings and a sculpture (called "Christ Unlimited") by his brother Cornelis Makkink, all of which had been featured in Tinto Brass' film Dropout a year before.
Malcolm McDowell chose to play Alex speaking in his normal Northern English accent instead of a Cockney accent. McDowell felt his softer accent would strike an interesting contrast with Alex's menacing personality and also help him stand out amongst his friends.
Alex is given Serum 114 when he undergoes the Ludovico treatment. It is perhaps an in-joke on Kubrick's repeated use of CRM in his films, as serum sounds almost like CRM sounded out.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
To film Alex's suicide attempt from his own perspective, a Newman Sinclair camera enclosed in a custom-built plastic box was thrown off a building six times until it finally landed pointing downwards. It broke the lens, but the camera itself survived otherwise unscathed. Stanley Kubrick later marveled at the durability of this particular type of camera.
Miss Weathers the cat woman was weak and helpless in the novel. She was made strong and proud in the film so she could hold her own against Alex' attack, therefore the audience won't lose all sympathy for him when he kills her. Miss Weathers uses a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven, Alex's favorite composer, as a weapon against him, but he soon gets the upper hand and clobbers her. To spare us the violence of her demise, Kubrick cuts to a montage of paintings hanging in the same room.
The book never tells us Alex's last name. He nicknames himself Alexander the Large while raping the music-loving girls. Malcolm McDowell ad libbed the name "DeLarge," a pun on "the Large," in "Scene 15," registry into prison, which is original to Stanley Kubrick and not in the novel. A continuity error occurs when a caption in "Scene 31," hospital, perhaps filmed earlier, gives Alex's last name as Burgess after Anthony Burgess. His full name is given as Alex Burgess in a number of the newspaper articles seen after his (coerced) suicide attempt.
Many phallic references: snake crawling between the legs of the woman in the poster, the popsicles held by the girls in the record store, the tip of Alex's walking stick, the object used by Alex to kill the woman.
Alex's prison number is 655321 (Six, double five, three, two, one), truncated from the book's 6655321. The combination to Alex's bedroom door is 17-34-89. When the Dim and Georgie as police are dragging Alex between them, their numbers are 665 and 667, implying that Alex is 666.
In adapting the Anthony Burgess, book, minor incidents and characters were omitted or conflated. Some of their dialogue was reassigned to other characters, including a nameless court official's line "I hope to God it'll torture you to madness," reassigned to PR Deltoid. Characters not in the film include a librarian harmed by Alex who gets revenge 2 years later, prison friends (including a kindly abortionist who helps fellow prisoners injured in brawls) and prison enemies (including a man who dies of a heart attack after Alex strikes him in self-defense). A more drastic change is a scene of Alex drugging and raping two 10-year-old girls from the record shop, filmed as a consensual encounter with girls his own age. The film omits the 21st chapter of the book, which wasn't in the US edition. In this, Alex (no longer 'cured') has recruited a new gang and continues his mayhem. Later, he runs into Pete, who now has a job and a family. Alex, having grown older and bored with mayhem, chooses to follow suit. He decides it is more challenging and pleasurable to build and create rather than destroy, and that he would like to build a future for himself. Stanley Kubrick only discovered this additional chapter when the screenplay was "virtually finished", and never gave any serious consideration to using it, as he felt it was inconsistent with the style and tone of the rest of the novel. It is often erroneously reported that he was unaware of the final chapter during the making of the film.
Alex "popping" his mouth open for food was entirely improvised, as Stanley Kubrick got incredibly bored during the scene and Malcolm McDowell started acting silly just to keep everyone's attention focused.